The quality of the 2021 NFL Draft’s wide receiver prospect pool is outstanding. Listing names of the elite players isn't needed, as they’ve become household tongue for NFL enthusiasts around the globe. But, who else is available after the first wave of pass-catching talents is the question looming not only for the common eye but for front-office executives around the league looking for talent on the boundary as offseason programs kick off in the coming months.
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone that doesn’t mention Ja’Marr Chase as LSU's top prospect despite his decision to opt out of the 2020 season. Now, no one is questioning that or taking anything away from Chase’s ability, I highlighted that here. But, the Tigers have never been just a one-trick pony, and there’s another wideout from Baton Rouge who deserves much more attention than he’s garnered thus far in the evaluation process.
Meet Terrace Marshall Jr., a 6-foot-3 blazer on the edge who played second fiddle to Chase in 2019 before ending his junior campaign prematurely to prepare for the upcoming draft. However, before opting out of the season, Marshall took over WR1 reps for Ed Orgeron’s Chase-less offense for five games in 2020, and boy did he impress. Marshall totaled 48 receptions for 731 yards with six touchdowns, highlighted by a dominating opening week performance in which he torched the Missouri Tigers secondary to the tune of 235 yards and three touchdowns.
"I think somebody is gonna get a steal with Terrace Marshall Jr.,” ESPN’s Marcus Spears said. "It was thought that he would be the No. 1 guy before Justin Jefferson, who we saw go crazy in Minnesota, and obviously Ja'Marr Chase being slotted ahead of him in this draft, but he is a big, physical wide receiver that can make plays (and) go up for 50-50 balls."
Marshall isn’t just a vertical threat, however, as he worked seamlessly in the intermediate portions of the Tigers offense behind Jefferson and Chase during his tenure in Baton Rouge. It was his way to earn snaps initially, Marshall said, who understood his role as an underclassman wasn’t to dominate or field a featured role within the offense. His role was carved out of hard work and dedication to his craft that ultimately made him into the receiver he is today.
“I let all the hard work show [today],” Marshall said following LSU’s Pro Day. “Ever since I was five years old, I just came out here and showed what I can do… I can play anywhere on the field. I use my size to my advantage, my speed is unique, and I’m able to work DBs in and out of my routes.”
Looked upon as a backend first-round talent by The Draft Network, Marshall’s skill set presents one of the easier evaluations of the class. Among second-tier wideouts, he presents ideal size, ball skills, experience, and fluidity as a route-runner. When looking at others in his realm in the likes of Rondale Moore, Rashod Bateman, and Kadarius Toney, all who’ve heard their names thrown around the backend of the first round, Marshall could offer the safest floor moving into training camp. Moore and Toney offer lightning-in-a-bottle type speed built upon offensive coordinators’ ability to scheme touches to them in the open field. Both are also under 6-foot tall. Bateman is similar to Marshall in terms of vertical prowess at 6-foot-2, but he lacks top-end speed—that has been a knock on him when evaluating his overall ceiling as a prospect. Marshall has no issues when it comes to projecting his ability to stretch the defense at the next level, exemplified from his 4.38s 40 time on Wednesday afternoon. Pairing his NFL frame, eye-popping tape, and elite raw measurables, it isn’t hard to see why Marshall’s exponential draft board rise has many around the league on notice.
For teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, who now must fill the shoes of Sammy Watkins, Marshall makes so much sense at No. 31. Pairing Marshall with former teammate Clyde Edwards-Helaire could do wonders for his progression in learning Kansas City’s ever-changing offense. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to have Patrick Mahomes as your signal-caller at the onset of your career.
No matter who drafts him, Marshall is ready to put the work in to succeed.
“I’m a leader that makes everyone around me better,” Marshall said. “I’m going to be the hardest working receiver in the room no matter who’s there… you’re going to get touchdowns out of me. You’re going to get that dog.”
Give me all the Terrace Marshall Jr. stock as April quickly approaches, as he has the opportunity to become one of the most productive rookie wideouts in the class.